When you watch reality TV singing shows, the hopefuls tend to be starry-eyed dreamers, who’ll look into the camera and say “I’ve always dreamed of being a singer.” They never say they’ve always dreamed of singing.
I think that’s a pretty important difference. If they really gave a shit about singing, they’d be out there every day and night, singing their fucking lungs out.
Joining bands, finding gigs, recording music, filming YouTube videos, working their asses off to get in front of an audience.
But they’re not. They’re dragging themselves across national TV for a shot at fame and fortune based on scripted drama and audience manipulation.
They’re waiting for someone to make them into Singers. With the lifestyle, and the glamour to boot. They don’t want to do something. They want to be the person who does something.
You can see this behavior in a lot of other areas, with a lot of other people.
They don’t want to found a company. They want to be founders. They don’t want to create art. They want to be artists. They don’t want to spend hours coding until their eyes ache. They want to be developers.
Life is About The Shit You Do Every Day.
Following your dreams, living your life is about getting up in the morning and going to work. It could be art, it could be music, it could be your own business. Work could be a stage, a studio, a swanky office or your bedroom, but it’s always work.
It’s got nothing to do with what you call yourself, or what your lifestyle is like. It’s all about the shit that you have to work on, and accomplish every single day. That’s what matters because that’s how you get somewhere.
If you’re concerned with chasing the lifestyle, trying to take on the persona and gain the trappings, you’re missing the point. You’ll never make anything worthwhile because making something isn’t even on your radar.
The irony of being completely focused on being, rather than doing, is that without doing — you’ll never be anything.
You’ll Never Feel Like You’ve Reached The End.
I’m convinced that nobody actually feels like they’ve become something. Or somebody. No one gets to the end of the line and says they feel like an entrepreneur now, or an artist now. Because it’s not a feeling you can ever capture.
You’ll always be looking for the one big thing that will get you there, the one big shot that can allow you to finally stop and enjoy yourself.
But it’s never going to happen. If you keep chasing that feeling of the ticking the box, and becoming someone, there will never be an end to it. You have to chase the doing, because that’s where you’ll find satisfaction and fulfillment.
There is no point at which you’ve ever made it. There’s no point at which you’re home safe and you can just stop. Those singing contestants? They don’t believe that. They believe they can be happy if they win this contest. Get this deal. Release this single. It’s not true.
Your Work Is Going To Suck.
When you’re only working to be somebody, rather than focusing on doing the work for its own sake, it’s going to suffer. The quality will be low and the level of effort you put in is going to be noticeably lacking.
The work itself is important, it’s crucially important. It’s not just something that has to be ticked off in order to justify the way you present yourself, or the way you want to feel. It’s not there to give your lifestyle a reason. The work is everything that matters.
You have to make good art. Write good sentences. Build good shit. If you don’t, if all you’re doing is paying lip service to your own ego, people will notice. The world will notice.
Nobody Will Take You Seriously If You Don’t Do Shit.
When you tell everyone that you are something, you are someone, they expect to see some proof. Nobody would listen to me as a writer, if I didn’t spend hours every day hammering out blog posts, working on a book and communicating with my readers.
It’s the work that makes people sit up and take notice, not your bio or your introduction. If you want anyone to take you seriously, what you really want is their respect. And you can’t just be given respect. Nobody is lining up to hand it out.
You have to earn it. You earn it by doing things that matter, and working on projects that matter and putting in the effort every single day. It’s the only way to earn it.
You Won’t Improve, And You Won’t Learn.
If you’re already content to call yourself a founder, and call yourself an artist, instead of founding, creating and working, you’re closing yourself off to improvement and the opportunity to learn.
When you look at the work instead, and you spend your time trying to make it the best it can be, that’s when you have the chance to make a discovery. To experience your own Eureka moment.
The work I do, that’s writing. And entrepreneurship. And marketing. And design. And speaking. But me? I prefer to think of myself as a student, before anything else. I’m here to learn. We all are.
You Have To Just Get Out There.
If you want to make it, you’re going to waste your time trying to hit an impossible goal, and quite probably relying on a series of gatekeepers in order to get there. You won’t find happiness down the road, just a series of increasingly tough disappointments.
If you want to actually do something, you’re going to find a great deal more satisfaction. There’s so many opportunities to do what you love when you’re not worried about who you’re trying to be, or what lifestyle you think you should have.
You can get out there, and make something happen. I like to talk a lot about a band called Fugazi, and another called Black Flag. They were hugely important to me, as a creative and an entrepreneur — because they never waited for a big break. They used to book their own shows, pay for their own records, and work their asses off.
For their entire careers, they were focused on the doing, not the being.
And that’s the better path.
This piece originally appeared on Medium.
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